Voting doesn’t cure racism, and it was never designed to. Voting is a political act of aggression. It is a way for citizens to express their voices. For African Americans who have been silenced for centuries, voting is an important extension of their humanity. But voting is also an illusion because of what it cannot do. It cannot make white people empathize with the black experience. It cannot soften the hearts of die-hard racists, just the opposite. Voting often legislates cruelty and mirages.
Consider that in 1965, Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act. Standing behind him in this glorious important moment was Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis, David Abernathy Sr., A. Phillip Randolph among others. As an occasion, it was historical but it wasn’t a problem solver because 7 years later two Southern University students were shot dead by the National Guard. Southern U. students had been protesting university policies. It created a decision for Louisiana’s governor Edwin Edwards who was so activated by black disobedience he brought in National Guard troops. A confrontation ensued, shots were fired. When the smoke cleared, two students lay dead. The shooter was never charged.
If voting didn’t protect black bodies from being murdered at Southern University 48 years ago, how can it prevent the murder of black bodies now? The answer is that voting is just the first rung on the ladder. While voting puts people in office, it takes a lot more backroom dealing to keep them there, and to make sure they fight for issues their constituents value. Like racism and police brutality.
Racism is a social construct. You cannot legislate it out of the culture. What you can do is affect how racism affects systems, like policing. That happens if/when a group of like-minded politicians are encouraged to consider police brutality policy as important.
The art of politics is understanding politics, particularly how money infects and affects the system. It works like this. A politician believes in something. Let’s say it’s the anti-militarization of communities, and the murders of black men. He runs for Congress. But he needs money. The people who give him money then have an advantage if he is elected. They remind him of the favor they bestowed upon him, which acts more like a promise. We helped you. Now you help us.
NBA players who really want to affect political change, particularly in policy, need to accept that to beat the system they have to join the system. NBA players can become unique political partners because they have financial capital. That capital can be used to exert pressure by way of political promises. They can fund candidates who believe similarly and can make sure those candidates follow through by way of quid pro quo.
It works like this. The NBA players form a super PAC. A super PAC is a political action committee, a 527 organization that collects contributions and donates those funds to campaigns and candidates. A Super PAC can receive unlimited contributions. Most of the political ads you see during election season are funded by Super PACs.
What if this ad ran on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC. A Doc Rivers voice over “We’re the ones getting killed. We’re the ones getting shot. We’re the ones denied to live in certain communities. We have been hung. We have been shot. All you do is keep hearing about fear. It’s amazing why we keep loving this country and this country does not love us back”. Frames of black men being harassed, assaulted, and killed by the police in various cities then inundate the screen.
One of the more famous super PACS formed to defeat Donald Trump is the Lincoln Group. The Lincoln Group is made up of disgusted Republicans who despise Donald Trump. Every Trump foible, lie, mistake, stumble brings out another Lincoln Group ad.
If NBA players formed a super PAC for the singular purpose of changing police violence and to fund politicians whose primary goal was to benefit communities of color, then their influence and voice would be heard for generations.
Currently, in the Senate is The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020. The law allows for a uniform set of procedures for police conduct. It mandates a review of training procedures and the utilization of pilot programs. The law reforms hiring practices and eliminates qualified immunity, no-knock warrants, and chokeholds.
Sounds necessary but it won’t pass in the Senate under a Republican majority. Lindsay Graham (R) probably won’t vote for it. Graham has been a U.S. Senator for 17 years. He is running for reelection against Jamie Harrison (D) a black lobbyist who has never held a political office. Harris raised $20 million in the first two quarters of the year. Super PACs assisting Harrison have an investment. If Harrison does the unthinkable and beats Lindsay Graham, currently the polls have them tied, Harrison has someone he has to consider. He has to pay the support back with policy. But if he loses and Graham gets to vote for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020, and he votes no, Graham is just following what those who financed his campaign want him to do.
It takes $5,000 to start a super PAC, something NBA players spend at the jewelry store in one visit. But what if $5,000, $10,000 or $50,000 could determine the longevity of qualified immunity, police misconduct, and banned police training exercises. Wouldn’t it be worth it then?
Do something means, well, do something.